How to Build a Casual Minimalist Wardrobe (That’s Good for the Planet)

Building a minimalist wardrobe isn’t just for ascetics. Done right, it can become a stylish and sustainable lifestyle. It’s true! Adopting a minimalist approach to your wardrobe can drastically lessen your carbon footprint. 

Imagine opening your cupboard each morning and finding everything perfectly arranged, each piece a favorite, and no excess cluttering up your space. Even better, you’ll know you’re doing your bit for the environment.

The fewer choices we have, the happier we are. Getting dressed doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. With fewer items, you’ll spend less time deciding what to wear and more time to enjoy your day. 

Minimalist fashion is the epitome of the phrase “less is more.” It’s all about maximizing your use of a small number of versatile clothes that you love. This blog post will walk you through everything you need to know.

Let’s dive in!

What Is a Casual Minimalist Wardrobe?

A casual minimalist wardrobe is a carefully curated selection of clothing that prioritizes quality over quantity. It’s composed of versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits for different occasions. These typically include timeless styles that can transcend seasonal trends. 

With a minimalist approach, the emphasis is on choosing well made garments that are ethically produced and guaranteed to last. This not only helps to reduce waste and environmental impact but also supports ethical work practices in the fashion industry. 

It’s all about buying less, but choosing well. Minimalist outfits embody simplicity, functionality, and elegance. Making them not only good for your pocket but also beneficial for the planet.

The Benefits of Having Fewer Clothes

Embracing a more minimal wardrobe might seem like a monumental task, particularly if your current reality is an overflowing closet. You likely have mornings where you’re rummaging through piles of clothing, wrestling with decision fatigue, and inevitably running late because of it.

The allure of seasonal sales and the temporary thrill of bringing home new clothes often win out over the challenge of decluttering. Maybe you’ve succumbed to the belief that a new purchase will fix your persistent feelings of “having nothing to wear.” (You might even have a pile of still-tagged items in the back of your cupboard.)

Transitioning to a minimalist wardrobe isn’t just about the physical decluttering process; it’s a mental shift too. It’s about saying farewell to old shopping habits that no longer serve you and embracing the liberating concept of ‘less is more.’

Understanding the tangible benefits waiting for you on the other side of this transformation is essential to staying motivated. So let’s delve into how a casual minimalist wardrobe can enhance your life.

  • It’s easier to decide what to wear in the morning
  • Packing for vacation is super simple (plus, you have less luggage)
  • Your wardrobe isn’t so cluttered and messy
  • Overflowing laundry baskets are a thing of the past
  • No more feeling guilty about clothes you never wear
  • You free up mental bandwidth for more important things
  • You feel good in all your clothes
  • Everything you own is your favorite
  • Buyer’s remorse is a thing of the past
  • You no longer care what other people think
  • Getting dressed doesn’t stress you out anymore
  • You save money in the long run
  • Life is generally easier
  • You’re happier

Step-By-Step Instructions to Create a Casual Minimalist Wardrobe

Minimalist clothes aren’t plain or boring by any stretch of the imagination. They can be beautifully designed and colorful. The key is to choose pieces that can be worn in various combinations and on numerous occasions. 

Embarking on this journey might feel like climbing Mt. Everest, but it doesn’t have to. All you need is a solid plan and a healthy dollop of determination. And hey, there’s no rush. Take your time (within reason, I’m not encouraging you to procrastinate!) and enjoy the process.

Each step needs special care and attention. This isn’t just about trimming down that behemoth pile of clothes. It’s about crafting a collection that’s all you. And remember, the goal isn’t just to look good, but to feel like a million bucks too.

We’ve all had that ‘meh’ feeling when we’ve scrambled into jeans that just don’t fit right—too tight, too loose, or just plain uncomfy. Well, a minimalist wardrobe is your ticket out of ‘meh’ and into ‘hell yeah!’

Every piece should make you feel cool, confident, and utterly you. So, let’s jump in and build a wardrobe you absolutely love! 

Women's clothing laid out: jeans, white shirt, striped t-shirt, and red sandals
Photo by Junko Nakase on Unsplash

Step 1: Define Your Personal Style

The first step is to define your personal style. This doesn’t necessarily mean slapping on labels like ‘bohemian,’ ‘preppy,’ or ‘grunge.’ It’s about finding the cuts, fabrics, colors, and silhouettes that make you feel the most confident, comfortable, and above all, yourself.

Begin by taking a good, hard look at your current wardrobe and pick out your most worn and loved pieces. Analyze what makes you love these items. Is it the cut? The color? The fabric? These are your guiding principles for your new wardrobe.

For a lot of people, choosing a color palette for their wardrobe is appealing. They like the idea of knowing that everything matches with everything else. There’s no concern about things not matching.

If you’re fine with always wearing a range of, say, gray or beige or cornflower blue, go for it. Sporty and I prefer mixing it up. Our pants are mostly neutral, which makes things easier. However, our tops (t-shirts, blouses, sweaters, etc.) are all different colors.

We both tried going the neutral route, but we ended up feeling dull and boring. That’s not to say it’s the same for everyone, mind you. It was just our experience. You do you!

Step 2: Clear Your Closet 

This step is where the real work begins. Remove every single item from your wardrobe, yes, even the things hiding in the back that you haven’t looked at in years. It’s time for a wardrobe audit. 

Helpfully, the Spruce has put together an in-depth guide on how to declutter the clothes in your closet. They suggest starting with these 7 key closet decluttering questions:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Do I wear it?
  3. Does it project the image I want?
  4. Does it itch or scratch?
  5. Does it pinch my toes? Are the heels too high to walk in?
  6. Is it moldy? Smelly? Stained?
  7. Does it fit?

Asking these questions as you go through your clothes, shoes, and accessories will make letting go so much easier. They’re super practical and force you to leave the emotion out of the equation.

If a blouse is moldy, smelly, or stained, for example, it must go. It doesn’t matter how much you love it. Channel your inner-Marie Kondo and thank it for the time you had together and then say goodbye.

If you’ve been completely honest, you should only be left with the items you truly love and are happy to wear on a regular basis. 

Next, it’s time to figure out what to do with the things you aren’t keeping. The key is to declutter sustainably. You need to make sure your old clothes don’t end up in the landfill.

Sustainable fashion is not only about supporting slow fashion labels but also about giving new life to existing items and keeping clothing out of landfills.

The Good Trade

Step 3: Consider Your Needs (Everyday Wear, Formal Occasions, Etc.)

If your work allows for more informal attire it definitely takes the pressure off. You can wear your Levis to the office and to the movies. Sweet.

But what about business meetings, special events, or first dates? Levis look good, but sometimes you may want to wear something a little fancier.

You won’t wear these items every day, but it’s nice to have them on hand for when you get invited to a wedding or some other occasion where your more casual clothes don’t quite do the trick.

Take some time to think about the kind of clothes you regularly wear. What are your likes and dislikes? What do you feel most comfortable in? Are there certain things your wear a lot?

Next, consider what you like to wear to formal functions or events. How often do you attend these sorts of things? Would you be happy to wear the same outfit every time or would you prefer having some options?

When making your choices, it’s helpful to think in terms of pieces and outfits. Making sure you can mix and match your clothes for different occasions means you won’t get bored with your clothes.

Step 4: How Often Are You Able to Do Laundry?

You might love the idea of only owning two pairs of pants and three shirts, but if you can only do your laundry once a week that’s not going to work. Especially in summer. Meep!

Think about how often you’re able to wash your clothes and kit out your wardrobe accordingly. Our ex-roommate did laundry every Saturday, so he bought five shirts for work and a couple of T-shirts for the weekend.

He also had three or four pairs of black jeans that he rotated. This amount appeared to work well for him, whether it would suit your needs is something only you can know.

It’s important to note here that you probably won’t get it right the first time. Creating the perfect minimalist capsule wardrobe is a process. But eventually, you’ll reach a point where you have exactly what you need.

Step 5: Invest in Quality Basics

Now that your closet is decluttered, it’s time to invest in the basics. These are the backbone of your wardrobe. Go for high-quality items that are ethically produced and made out of durable materials. 

Minimalist Wardrobe Checklist for Men:

  • Plain white t-shirts
  • Crisp white button-down shirt
  • Neutral-colored sweaters (e.g. gray, navy, black)
  • Dark wash jeans
  • Chinos or khaki pants
  • Tailored suit (in a versatile color)
  • Classic leather belt
  • Casual sneakers
  • Dress shoes (e.g. oxfords or loafers)
  • Versatile blazer
  • Simple watch
  • Neutral-colored socks
  • Undergarments (e.g. boxers, undershirts)
  • Pajamas or comfortable sleepwear
  • Weather-appropriate outerwear (e.g. coat, jacket)

Minimalist Wardrobe Checklist for Women:

  • White t-shirts (short and long sleeve)
  • Crisp white button-down shirt
  • Basic tank tops (in neutral colors)
  • Classic black dress
  • Dark wash jeans
  • Tailored trousers
  • Little black dress (LBD)
  • Versatile blazer (black or navy)
  • Comfortable flats
  • Casual sneakers
  • Neutral-colored heels (e.g. black or nude)
  • Pajamas or comfortable sleepwear
  • Weather-appropriate outerwear (e.g. coat, jacket)

Remember, these lists are just starting points, and you can customize them based on your personal preferences and lifestyle. If you’re not a fan of the outdoors, for example, don’t buy a rain jacket.

Step 6: Figure Out How Many Items You Need

A checklist is useful, but how many of each should you buy? That’s a great question. You need to identify your sweet spot. You don’t want too many clothes, but neither do you want too few. Using the Goldilocks Principle will help you arrive at a number that’s ‘just right’ for you.

After taking into account your daily (and occasional) needs as well as how often you’re able to do laundry, you’ll have a good idea of not only what you need, but how many of each as well.

Step 7: Decide Where to Go shopping

Of equal importance is figuring out where to buy the items you’ll be adding to your wardrobe. Whether you’re looking for jeans, shirts, or a pair of cute minimalist shoes, step one is finding a sustainable source.

Whatever you do, steer clear of fast fashion outlets. When you search for that elusive sexy dress for the special occasions section of your wardrobe, try looking in pre-loved designer fashion boutiques.

The environmental impact of the textile and clothing industry is enormous. Buying secondhand is a great way to offset that. Even if it is just by a little, every act takes you closer to living more sustainably.

Another option is to find a local designer or tailor and work with them to create something timeless. Supporting local businesses is good for the economy and the environment.

Finally, wherever you decide to spend your money, make sure you choose a brand that has a triple bottom line. In other words, a brand that cares about more than just financial profit.

Step 8: Mix and Match 

This is a fun step! Start experimenting with your new minimalist wardrobe. See how many outfits you can create using the same few pieces. You might be surprised at how creative you can get! Remember, the goal is to maximize your wardrobe’s potential with the least number of pieces. 

Step 9: Be Mindful of Future Purchases

With your new minimalist wardrobe in place, you need to become more discerning with future purchases. Any new addition should align with your personal style and integrate seamlessly into your existing clothing collection. Before making a new purchase, always ask yourself:

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it fit me well?
  • Is it versatile and can it be paired with multiple items in my current wardrobe?
  • Is it of good quality and ethically made?

This mindset will help you avoid impulse buys and keep your wardrobe minimalist and clutter-free.

Key Considerations for Successfully Creating a Minimalist Wardrobe

Adopting a minimalist wardrobe isn’t a one-time process. It requires continual assessment and adjustments. As your tastes change and evolve, and as items wear out and require replacement, you’ll need to revisit and revise your wardrobe.

Just as you did when first decluttering, regularly evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Is there a piece you haven’t worn in the past six months? It might be time to let it go. Have you discovered a new color or style that makes you feel fantastic? Introduce it thoughtfully into your collection.

Ultimately, maintaining a minimalist wardrobe is about making conscious choices that reflect who you are, and prioritizing quality over quantity. By doing so, you’ll not only look great, but you’ll also ease everyday decision-making and contribute positively to a more sustainable fashion industry.

Taking It to the Next Level: How to Go Beyond Just Having a Minimalist Closet

Minimalism doesn’t have to stop at your wardrobe. It can be incorporated into all aspects of your life for even more benefits. Consider applying the same principles to your accessories, makeup, and skincare routine. Keep only the items that you really love and use, and invest in quality over quantity.

You could also extend minimalism to your home decor. Pare down to only the furniture and decorative items that serve a function and bring you joy. You’ll find that your home feels more spacious, calm, and welcoming. (Who knows, you may even end up going furniture-free.)

Keep in mind that minimalism is a mindset that applies far beyond material possessions. You can apply these principles to your relationships, commitments, and hobbies too.

Spend your time and energy on things that truly matter to you, and let go of the things that don’t. You’ll find you have more time for self-care, personal growth, and the relationships that are most important to you. 

Minimalism isn’t about having less (or adopting an off-grid hippie lifestyle)—it’s about making room for more of what brings you joy and fulfillment.

Alternatives to a Minimalist Wardrobe

If a minimalist wardrobe doesn’t seem like the right fit for you (lame pun intended), or you can’t see your way clear to cutting down your amount of clothing, there is no need to despair. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice and not a hard and fast rule. 

The are many different ways to approach this. After all, you’re paring down your closet, not your personal style. The main thing is that you’re still being mindful of your impact on the environment.

Here are a few alternatives:

Capsule Wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is similar to a minimalist wardrobe, but it usually consists of around 30 to 40 items that can be mixed and matched for a complete wardrobe. Each item is carefully chosen for its versatility and ability to coordinate with the other pieces.

Thrift Shopping

Secondhand clothing store
Photo by Kaylin Pacheco on Unsplash

Thrifting for treasures can be a fun and sustainable alternative to a minimalist wardrobe. With a bit of patience, you can find unique vintage pieces, barely used designer items and much more. All at a fraction of their original price.

Not only is thrifting cost-effective, but it’s also a great way to give a second life to clothes and prevent them from ending up in a landfill. You also get to avoid single-use plastic packaging, which new clothes are often wrapped in.

Project 333 Wardrobe

The Project 333 Wardrobe challenge encourages people to choose 33 items to wear for the next 3 months. This includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes. According to Courtney Carver, the project’s creator, it’s possible to not only survive with just 33 items in your closet for three months but actually thrive.

To date, thousands of women have taken on the challenge and never looked back. So it might be worth considering if the prospect of getting dressed has you breaking out in hives.

Wrapping Up and Our Experience Creating a Simple Wardrobe

Sporty and I used to be the original fashion divas. If it didn’t have the appropriate label (Diesel, Levi, etc.) we wouldn’t wear it. We also considered it fashion suicide to be seen in the same outfit twice in a row.

Thankfully, we’ve since changed our outlook on attire. Along with our tragic eighties-infused sense of style, we’ve also discarded our materialistic values. Now, we value substance over style, practicality over aesthetics, and sustainability over trends.

These days, our wardrobe mainly consists of functional, comfortable, and sustainably-designed pieces. We aim to have less, but what we do have, we enjoy wearing.

Remember, building a casual minimalist wardrobe is a commitment. There’s no point in spending money on expensive items if you’re going to hate them in a month’s time. Make sure you’re happy with your choices before handing over your credit card.

Minimalist fashion also encourages conscious consumption. Rather than impulsively buying new items, you put thought into every purchase, considering its longevity, versatility, and the ethical implications of its production.

Reducing consumption has to be integrated into our solutions toolkit if we’re to quickly tackle the climate crisis before 2050. The governments and corporations who created the mess need to fix it.

However, as individuals, we must do our part too. We can’t keep consuming ad nauseam. At some point, we need to stop and take stock. Do we really need that [whatever] or are we buying for buying’s sake?

As the School of Life points out in The History of Consumerism, humans aren’t planning to eschew consumerism anytime soon. But we can at least slow down a little.

Changing our shopping habits, reducing the number of things we own, and adopting a ‘less is more’ lifestyle will at least put us in the right direction. As will building a casual minimalist wardrobe.

Doesn’t it feel good to know you’re on the right path?